Will we like European river cruises?

Dec 28th, 2012, 06:13 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Oct 2012
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Will we like European river cruises?

We are a 40-something U.S. couple who has traveled a fair amount, always independently. In the U.S. and occasionally in Europe, we have also stayed a up to a week at a time at resorts that are mostly inclusive, typically 2 meals a day and sports activities. These are not isolated places where you stay at the resort all day , but are near areas with museums, shopping, or natural attractions. We are big city people in our everyday life and like to vacation in cities as well. We are happier traveling with people slightly older than we are rather than younger, but we would be uncomfortable with a group
that was entirely retirees and older.

We like the idea of river cruises especially for Europe since it seems like we would be able to have the convenience of meals and lodging and have some quite "down time":to just look at the passing scenery. Casual luxury is how I'd describe our style, dressing for dinner means neat business or casual dress, not formal wear (sports jacket, not a dark suit and tie). Good food rather than buffets or huge all day meals, but nothing fussy or molecular gastronomy either . Light lunches but leisurely dinners sound perfect.

We'd love to see smaller towns that we haven't seen when we do our major city trips and the idea that transfers into town seem simple. We're not at all interested in evening activities other than an occasional lecture or some light background music.

I know people who love group tours and activities, and some people who love huge party cruises, That's great for them but it sounds horrible to us, the way our vacation choices sound horrible to others!

So is river cruising as good an idea as we think? Will we be bored watching the world go by if we end up with several rainy days? Is there enough space on most ships to move around so we don't get cabin fever? Are the days on shore rushed going from museum to castle and back again? Is 8-10 days a good amount of time for these cruises?

Obviously the most important choice will be the specific itinerary and ship. Costs can vary by so much so we'd be happy to hear specific experiences and tips on getting the best deals . Thank You!
SpainTraveler is offline  
Dec 29th, 2012, 05:05 AM
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We too are independent travelers who took our first river cruise this past May. We had only done one ocean cruise on Oceania (small ships)and the rest of our Europe travels have been on our own.

We loved the river cruise experience. We went on Avalon from Prague to Budapest cruising the Danube. The first three days we spent in Prague and then were taken by bus to Nuremberg where the cruise started. The boats dock mainly in town and access is easy. There is always an included morning tour and optional afternoon tours. We liked the casual pace and small towns. This is a completely different experience from ocean cruising and we found it suited our style much more.

The cabins are a good size with plenty of storage space. The breakfasts and lunches are buffet style and were excellent. Dinners were very good with many choices from the menu and included good local wines. In the evenings there was entertainment in the lounge, either a keyboard player and dancing or some local entertainment which we enjoyed. Very low key.

We have friends who travelled on AMA and gave it high marks as well. I would suggest you do some comparison shopping with the major cruise lines - AMA, Avalon, Viking and if you want luxury check out Tauck.

Hope this is of some help to you.
Royal is offline  
Dec 29th, 2012, 06:15 PM
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We look at a river cruise as a floating hotel. We eat on board when the boat is moving, otherwise eat off the ship. We do some of their included tours and ask for entrance tickets to sites covered if we wish to go on our own. You can be as independent as you wish. We never go on tours, usually rent apartments and cottages so this is as organized as we get.
HappyTrvlr is offline  
Jan 1st, 2013, 06:50 AM
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HappyTrvlr---so which river cruises have you taken? You've peaked my interest.
TPAYT is offline  
Jan 8th, 2013, 07:15 AM
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Our travel style seems right in line with yours and we are booked on our first river cruise (our first ever cruise) this coming June. We are sailing with Viking on the Duoro River in Portugal.

It is a bit of a leap of faith, having the same concerns as you. We visited Portugal last year and loved the country, people, food and wine. So from that aspect, we know we will enjoy the cruise. Looking forward to the new on board experience. The ship has only 124 passengers and we enjoy meeting new people, but mostly enjoy our time alone. Hopefully we will find a happy medium.

Good luck. Enjoy!
Michelle9 is offline  
Jan 8th, 2013, 01:11 PM
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My husband and I are in our mid-forties and took a cruise in 2010 on the Rhine with Uniworld. While we did enjoy it quite a bit, I should mention that the cruise was free to us (earned as a travel agent), so my perspective may be different had I paid for it. It was also the first major trip away without our 2 kids (extra relaxing).

There were only one or two other couples close to our age. Most were 55+.

We found the trip to be very relaxing! We did some of the tours, but often we would spend our morning or afternoon time riding and exploring with the provided bikes. That was our favorite thing of the trip.

Eating on the boat all the time got a bit dull. One of the best things about traveling for me is eating and trying different foods/restaurants! We did eat out a few times, but since we did not pay for the cruise, I felt okay about doing that.

I think you also do not get as immersed in the culture as you do when traveling independently. It is a very convenient and relaxing way to see a lot of different towns/cities. And, I did enjoy being on the river!

I would do it again, but right now, at this point in my life, it would not be where I would spend my vacation dollars. I would do a European bike trip!

Hope that helps!
lulu12215 is offline  
Jan 8th, 2013, 01:16 PM
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We did two of Viking's, the Russian River Cruise and the Danube, AMAWaterway's Mekong River, and Victoria's Yangtze River( 4 day.)There was a more diverse age group on the Mekong.
In Europe, liked the Russian River cruise from St. Petersburg to Moscow better than the Danube, more interesting, but I already been in Germany and Austria.
HappyTrvlr is offline  
Jan 9th, 2013, 09:22 AM
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We really appreciate the different perspectives!
We are independent travelers and will continue to be, but we were thinking of something different as a break. I think of the cruise like I do resort travel. Stay in one place, have your meals there when you want but the ability to skip some or go elsewhere occasionally.

The places we'd visit on the cruise would be places we didn't necessarily plan to see on other trips, so they would be like a bonus. I'm sure every port has something to see and do.

The personal experiences you've shared are very helpful. I know these cruises tend to have older clientele so we just wanted to get an idea how much older. And we'd like to count on having most meals on the ship, so quality is still important. The balance between private time and public seems like it will work out fine.

It sounds like all the cruise lines we're considering are mentioned here , mostly favorably. It may just dome down to price and timing.

If you have more ideas about these questions I asked before:
Is there enough space on most ships to move around so we don't get cabin fever?
Are the days on shore rushed going from museum to castle and back again?
Is 8-10 days a good amount of time for these cruises?
SpainTraveler is offline  
Jan 9th, 2013, 04:04 PM
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There was plenty of space on the boat and "cabin fever" was never a problem. The public outside decks and inside public spaces were large and inviting. The cabins on Uniworld are small but well designed with good storage. I don't think we ever felt rushed. 8-10 days for the cruise is perfect. You may want to add a few days before or after since you will already be in Europe!
lulu12215 is offline  
Jan 15th, 2013, 01:26 PM
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We took a Burgundy canal cruise 30 years ago and loved it although at that time we were the youngest people on the boat. Cordon Bleu chefs and chateaus, it was lovely. We would now like to take a similar cruise in the UK and would love names of cruise companies.
Pam1 is offline  
Jan 16th, 2013, 01:04 PM
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Thank you all for the great information on river cruises. I would like to know about the time of the year you went and what temperatures to expect. I have noticed the earlier in the year, the cheaper. But, if it is too cool to be outside on the decks, well, that would not be good. Some say it doesn't matter, just layer! We are looking at the Amsterdam to Basel trip and the Tulip Time one in Denmark. Thanks for any info you can give.
Suzyque is offline  
Jul 3rd, 2013, 06:23 AM
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I enjoyed this thread. We too are active travelers, are planning a river cruise (6 couples travelling together - this seemed like a very easy way to go) and are concerned about ultra slow pace when on the excursions. My friends went on GCT last year and are now wary of traveling with slower travelers. SpainTraveler, did you go on your cruise, and if so, what did you think? Pam1, your barge trip sounds great - my impression is that these are very pricey. Which group did you travel with?
megdean is offline  
Jul 3rd, 2013, 10:23 PM
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We have taken two River cruises (both on Uniworld) and loved both of them. The first was a Danube River Cruise from Passau, Germany to Budapest with many stops along the way. WE loved it and also loved our pre-cruise tour of Prague (also part of the trip). The following year we took a Rhine River Cruise which started in Amsterdam and ended in Basel, Switzerland. We are taking a larger cruise line this fall to go around Spain and to Gibraltar and Morocco and will end in Lisbon. After this trip we will probably go back to river cruising,
Cali is offline  
Jul 8th, 2013, 09:35 PM
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My wife and I went on a river cruise in 2011, through Burgundy, Cotes du Rhone and Provence in late March, booked through Gate 1 Travel on one of Luftner Cruises Amadeus vessels. The ship had a capacity of 160 passengers, but there were only 125 aboard. I would guess the average age of cruisers as 55+. The food was consistently top-rate. Only two or three excursions were included with the fare; the rest were optional. Needless to say, the focus was on wine and ancient or medieval architecture. In a few cities we simply wandered around on our own, seeking out some landmarks, stopping at a cafe or auberge for lunch, and a local maison du vin if we could find one. Most of the cruising took place at night, and we were usually docked during the day. In the instances of daytime cruising, it was a pleasure to sit on the sun deck and watch the farms, small towns and castles go by. I liked this cruise so well that I wouldn't mind taking it again.

We enjoyed that trip well enough that we booked Viking's Holland and Belgium cruise for late March, 2012, rejoining a couple we met in France. We were on the maiden voyage of one of Viking's new "longships," which carry around 200 passengers. I'd guess the cruisers ages to be in the 55+ range, but there were a number in their 40's, and several quite a bit younger than that. The weather was as might be expected, although there were a few days when we could sit on the sun deck, or in the open-air lounge at the bow. We did have beautiful weather in Amsterdam on a couple of days, and in Antwerp and Bruges. On Viking, most excursions were included with the fare; only two were optional. Food was very good, as before, and Viking allows you to drink your own wine with no corking fee if you get tired of theirs.

As megdean suggests, some excursions can move slowly, especially if there are large buses, multiple stops, and other travelers with mobility problems. Other than trying to avoid the large bus tours, not sure what else can be done about this issue.
Dave_Ohio is offline  
Jul 13th, 2013, 11:14 AM
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Someone asked about the time of year we took river cruises: Danube, May and it rained/poured most of the time. Russia, early July, perfect, long days warm not hot temperatures. Mekong, October, still very hot so November would have been better or Jan/Feb. however, we were combining it with another trip in Asia and it was fine. Too hot to use the balcony off the room. Yangtze, May, weather was perfect.
HappyTrvlr is offline  
Jan 29th, 2014, 01:52 PM
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Spain Traveler - DW and I, although older than you (mid 60s), are also used to independent travel in Europe. We rent a car and often spend at least one week in an apartment, working farm, etc. We like the flexibility, independence to go where we want, when we want, etc. and we enjoy towns and villages.

However, we've enjoyed sailing in the BVIs (with our friends and chartered boat/captain) and think we would enjoy a river cruise. We're used to trying different restaurants, and walking through the towns and villages after dinner. Being confined to the river boat after dinner is one reason we are hesitant to book a cruise.

Other reasons are that the European itineraries cover most of the cities, towns, villages that we have already seen; smoking is allowed on most river cruises; we've read reports that often the dinner choices are the same night after night.

I've enjoyed reading all of the comments on this post, but am still looking for more to help me convince DW that we should try a river cruise next, instead of planning another independent travel trip.
Wilhelm is offline  
Jan 31st, 2014, 05:44 AM
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I am of the opinion that if you are still able to travel independently, then you should travel independently. My husband and I visited many places over many years and I am glad that we did. I am a widow now and I favor river and ocean cruises as a solo traveler. I prefer traveling solo to traveling with another person.
JaneB is offline  
Feb 2nd, 2014, 02:05 PM
Join Date: Mar 2010
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My wife and I travelled with Tauck in early September 2011 on their Amsterdam to Budapest cruise and it was the best holiday we'd ever taken. Tauck looked after us better than anyone could expect. We enjoyed ourselves so much that we decided to save to travel with them again for our 40th Wedding Anniversary this year. We will be taking their Paris to Monte Carlo cruise in mid-August. We, as Australians, have always found it uncomfortable deciding what was the correct amount to tip so Tauck's all-inclusive pricing was perfect for us. They carry less passengers on their boats than their competitors which means more room in the public areas. This year they also include all drinks. They may not suit everyone but in our eyes they are simply the best.
OzJohnno is offline  
Mar 17th, 2014, 01:15 AM
Join Date: Dec 2013
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One of our favorite river cruises was the Portugal and Spain cruise from Viking. During the 10 days we went on 8 different tours and had the opportunity to see some great sites and sample some wonderful wines in both countries.

This was the cruise recommended to us on http://www.cruiseoffers.co.uk/. We had called asking about a different river cruise, but when they heard about some of our interests they steered us to this one. It was good advice.

We'd love to take the Russian River cruise, but I think we will wait on that one for a while, for obvious reasons.
PaulLanders is offline  
Mar 17th, 2014, 05:46 AM
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I feel the need to respectfully differ with some comments made above by another poster.
Wilhelm said: "Being confined to the river boat after dinner is one reason we are hesitant to book a cruise."
...While this may be true on some nights of a river cruise, or on some itineraries, we have not found this to always be the case. Depending on the itinerary, in some ports the ship may push off at 2200 or midnight, or be docked overnight.
Wilhelm also said: "...smoking is allowed on most river cruises; we've read reports that often the dinner choices are the same night after night."
...Smoking was allowed in restricted outside areas of the two ships that we took, but never indoors, whether in the common areas or in the cabins.
...Regarding the comment on food, the reports that Wilhelm refers to could not be farther from the truth on our cruises. We found a variety of choices each night including seafood, poultry, beef, lamb, and/or pastas, as well as vegetarian dishes. Should none of these choices have been appealing to the diner, Viking also offered strip sirloin, salmon or Caesar salad each night.
That said, I think cruises, whether river or ocean, have their place. For example, I can't imagine seeing Tuscany, Rome, Berlin, or Paris only as stops on a cruise. To me, cruises are especially useful to get to see locations that are otherwise difficult to reach, such as the glaciers and ports visited by an Alaskan cruise, or to experience a particular region within a country or area, such as we did in the Rhone Valley.
Dave_Ohio is offline  

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